BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DON COWIE believes Aberdeen’s emergence as the second force in Scottish football is testament to their blend of quality and continuity, admitting the Dons are the benchmark for mis-firing Hearts.
While many tipped Rangers to reclaim their crown as the nearest challengers to rampant Celtic on their return to the top-flight this term, Derek McInnes’ men had other ideas, streaking nine points ahead of the Gers.
A fine Premiership campaign has been supplemented by reaching the finals of the League Cup and Scottish Cup.
Hearts, conversely, who brought in nine new players from seven different nations in January, were forced to change their manager in December and have toiled for results under boss Ian Cathro.
As a consequence, their Europa League hopes are hanging by a thread ahead of today’s visit of Aberdeen.
Cowie said: “Aberdeen have had a terrific season and have been so consistent and it is probably against them that we have let ourselves down the most in the league.
“They are really strong and are the team everybody else looks at. Celtic are obviously way beyond that, but they are the realistic benchmark for the rest of us. They have been really steady, they have been together for a number of years now and they have been so consistent. That is what the rest of us are striving for.
“The proof is in the pudding with Derek McInnes. The team doesn’t change much, it doesn’t fluctuate, it is consistent and they have an identity and system.
“They all know what their jobs are – it’s not rocket science, that that is the reason they have done so well. Because they have been together for a few years they have real continuity and, bar a terrific Celtic side, they have been unlucky.”
He added: “It has been an experience this year that everyone will learn from. All the players. It can only make us stronger and that’s the main thing – to try and have a good end to the season then start really strongly next year.
“There has been a lot of talk about things not going well under the new manager, but I genuinely believe that if he gets the time, it could be really exciting at this club.